Health care, clean water and sanitation - key concerns in Rakhine

Published: 18 October 2012 16:11 CET

By Joe Cropp in Rakhine

Staff and volunteers from the Myanmar Red Cross Society have been working with all communities affected by the inter-communal violence in Rakhine State, providing much needed health care, and water and sanitation support, both of which are areas of critical concern.

The violence that broke out in early June has left an estimated 75,400 internally displaced people in 40 camps and temporary locations.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society has provided water purification plants providing thousands of people with safe water every day from local water sources. Red Cross volunteers are also providing health education and extensive hygiene promotion.

“Access to clean water and sanitation facilities are crucial in order to prevent the spread of water-born diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery,” said the organization’s head of health division, Dr Saw Ni Tun. “People’s knowledge of hygiene practices was limited in these areas prior to their displacement. The need for hygiene promotion activities and access to suitable water is critical.”

With support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), The National Society has also been involved in first aid, referral and transport to medical facilities, psychosocial support, and the provision of basic relief items such as cooking sets and tarpaulins.

The situation remains tense and polarized in the area, with street protests and sporadic incidents in the townships of Sittwe and Kyauktaw.

Some NGOs have reported that humanitarian access has been limited in some areas, while regular development activities have been disrupted since the breakout of violence.

Myanmar Red Cross Society President, Dr Tha Hla Shwe, said the society’s volunteers and staff had been able to move freely in the affected areas since the outbreak of violence due to their adherence to the principles of neutrality and impartiality. ICRC field staff working alongside the organization’s volunteers and staff are also being provided with full access.

“Support is being provided to all affected communities based on humanitarian need, irrespective of their political affiliations or religious beliefs,” Dr Tha Hla Shwe said. “The humanitarian needs of those in the affected area are immense, and it’s vital that we work together to bring aid to the thousands of men, women and children who need our help.”